Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bible Versions

In order to study the Bible (unless you use the original text), you need to consider what Bible version you will use. There are many Bible versions in English. This is not the same in many languages. Actually, it is very good that English speakers have an opportunity to use many versions.

No Bible translation is perfect because it is impossible to fully render the meaning of the original text in another language. There are two main reasons for that:
1) Each language has its own grammar. In many cases, it is impossible to keep the grammar structure of the original text. Some grammar categories may be missing or used very seldom.
2) Each language has its own vocabulary and the words usage. Each word has a spectrum of meanings, and these spectra do not match in different languages. So, it is impossible to translate a word using the same word each time.

So, different Bible versions render the meaning of the original text in somewhat different ways. Some versions are better and some are worse. No one is perfect. However, this does not mean that it is impossible to find out what the Bible says, reading it in translation. In most cases, there is no need to know all the shadows of meaning of the original text to understand what it means.

Regarding what translation can be considered the best, there are different opinions.

The following material is based on the books:
1. Gordon D. Fee, Douglas Stuart How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth
2. John Beekman, John Callow Translating the Word of God

There are three types of Bible translations:
1. Literal translation - when the translator(s) translate the Bible text as close to the original grammar structures and words as possible. The problem of literal translation is that it often sounds unnatural and not so clear to the readers. An example of literal translation is King James Version.
2. Free translation - when the translator(s) try to translate the thoughts of the Bible not paying much attention to the words. They try to make their version as understandable for modern readers as possible. However, the meaning of the original text is lost. An example of free translation is Living Bible.
3. Dynamic equivalent - an attempt to translate the words, idioms, and grammar constructions of the original language into exact equivalents in the language of translation. An example of dynamic equivalent is Good New Bible. Most scientists consider this way of translation to be the best.

To study the Bible Fee and Stuart recommend to use dynamic equivalent translations, for example, New International Version or Good News Bible as the main version. It is also good to use literal translation, for example, New American Standard Bible as an additional version to compare.

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